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Game Theory and Computational Social Choice on Blockchain (EPSRC CDT in Distributed Algorithms)

   EPSRC CDT in Distributed Algorithms

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  Dr Aris Filos-Ratsikas, Dr R Savani  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD project is part of the CDT in Distributed Algorithms: The What, How and where of Next-Generation Data Science.

This studentship is open to Home and International Students.

The successful PhD student will be co-supervised and work alongside our external partner IOHK.

Would you like to engage in cutting-edge work on computational social choice theory and game theory for blockchain applications? Would you like to work alongside experts from academia and the industry on applications that will be deployed at a large scale in the real world? This PhD opportunity will enable you to become an expert on the economics of blockchains, one of the most popular and fastest-growing research areas in artificial intelligence and computer science.

The blockchain is the backbone of almost all cryptocurrencies. It is a distributed ledger that anyone can view and verify and whose goal is to solve the problem of decentralised consensus, through a combination of cryptographic primitives and block production rules based on some resource distributed among the users, such as computational power (for Bitcoin and other Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies) or stake (i.e., fraction of the total money supply for Cardano and other Proof-of-Stake systems). Originally envisioned for financial applications (and still predominantly used as such, with decentralised exchanges and finance) the blockchain technology has a diverse set of applications, wherever consensus needs to be achieved: for example, digital identities (including healthcare and insurance), supply chain management, decentralised energy production and distribution, internet-of-things and voting.

Now that blockchain applications are coming of age, the promise of decentralisation needs to be reaffirmed. Even though the underlying protocol is indeed decentralised, blockchain platforms, like other organisations, are managed by people. In the beginning, decisions were made in mostly centralised fashions, through public forums, where the original creators held the highest authority. Second generation cryptocurrencies are bringing governance formally, on and off the chain, designing voting and governance systems, as they try to adapt and adjust to their stakeholders’ needs and preferences. With a diverse set of actors present whose preferences might not always align, the risk of division within the stakeholder community increases. The need for rigorously designed mechanisms, using proven methodologies from social choice theory and the expanded consensus toolbox provided by blockchains is more important than ever.

Social choice theory is concerned with the task of aggregating the opinions of a set of individuals into a collective decision. This is often a challenging task, as these opinions might be contrasting, and sophisticated mechanisms are needed in order to reach a consensus. The situation becomes even more difficult if one takes into account that the participants often act strategically, trying to manipulate the outcomes of this process in their favour. Game theory and mechanism design study exactly this type of phenomena, aiming to predict them, limit them or counteract them in the most efficient way possible.

Compared to classic approaches in social choice theory, game theory and mechanism design, the blockchain technology introduces new challenges, but also new tools that can be leveraged in the design of good aggregation mechanisms. This is one of the most rapidly developing areas in computer science, with still a lot of room for important and innovative results. In this project, you will have the opportunity to work alongside not only experts from Academia, but also principal researchers from a very successful blockchain technology company, contributing to their research towards large-scale applications.

The PhD project will be part of the research agenda highlighted above, aiming to develop efficient and robust mechanisms for e-Governance on the blockchain, as well as other related questions. The outcomes of the project will be important both from a research and from an application perspective. We will write a series of papers, targeting the major publication venues in artificial intelligence and economics and computation. At the same time, the mechanisms developed in the project will be included in IOHK’s e-Governance system and will be deployed at a large scale in the real world.

We will be using methods from social choice theory, game theory and mechanism design, three major research areas in the intersection of computer science and economics. We will develop new techniques, specifically geared towards the Blockchain infrastructure, which introduces several interesting twists and opportunities compared to more traditional application domains.

In particular:

-         The agents in these settings are users of the system that hold stakes, which are used in order for decisions to be made. These stakes can be transferred between users, and can be captured in monetary terms via ADAs, the internal currency of the IOHK blockchain system. Can we leverage these inherent characteristics of the system to design good incentive mechanisms? How should the stakes be incorporated when making social decisions in the e-Governance system?

-         The blockchain technology is inherently decentralised, and therefore several of the classic solutions in social choice and game theory cannot simply be applied. We will develop new tools and techniques to address these challenges.

-         Our solutions should provide theoretical guarantees, but they should also be practical for real users. We will combine the theoretical/formal analysis of the properties of the developed mechanisms with experiments on real data provided by the company, in order to provide pragmatic solutions.

The candidates for the PhD position should have a strong Bachelor or Master’s degree (or should be close to obtaining their degree) in computer science, mathematics, or a closely related academic discipline. Ideally, the candidate should have some maturity in mathematics, and programming skills in a general-purpose programming language.

For any enquiries, please contact Dr Aris Filos-Ratsikas ([Email Address Removed]) and Prof Rahul Savani ([Email Address Removed]) in the first instance or visit the CDT website for Director, Student Ambassador and Centre Manager details:

Visit the CDT website for application instructions, FAQs, interview timelines and guidance.

Funding Notes

This project is a funded Studentship for 4 years in total and will provide UK tuition fees and maintenance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£16,062 per annum, 2022/23 rate).
Visit the CDT website for funding and eligibility information:
You must enter the following information:
• Admission Term: 2022-23
• Application Type: Research Degree (MPhil/PhD/MD) – Full time
• Programme of Study: Electrical Engineering and Electronics – Doctor in Philosophy (PhD)
The remainder of the guidance is found in the CDT application instructions on our website:


The University of Liverpool’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Distributed Algorithms (CDT) is working in partnership with the STFC Hartree Centre and 20+ external partners from the manufacturing, defence and security sectors to provide a 4-year innovative PhD training programme that will equip up to 60 students with: the essential skills needed to become future leaders in distributed algorithms; the technical and professional networks needed to launch a career in next generation data science and future computing; and the confidence to make a positive difference in society, the economy and beyond.
The project will be co-supervised by Dr. Philip Lazos, a Research Fellow at IOHK, who is the principal researcher on topics related to social choice theory and game theory at the company, as well as Dr. Aris Filos-Ratsikas and Prof. Rahul Savani from the Economics and Computation group at the Department of Computer Science in the University of Liverpool.
IOHK is one of the major blockchain technology companies worldwide, who developed Cardano, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies. IOHK has a rather large research team consisting of academics as well as practitioners. One of the major goals of the company for the next years is to develop a Blockchain-based system for e-Governance that will be deployed in applications all over the world. An integral part of this endeavour is to implement mechanisms for good social decisions, aggregating the preferences of the stakeholders, which will also be robust to potential strategic behaviour.
Students will be based at the University of Liverpool and will be part of the CDT and Signal Processing research community - a large, social and creative research group that works together solving tough research problems. Students have two academic supervisors and an industrial partner who provide co-supervision, placements and the opportunity to work on real world challenges. In addition, students attend technical and professional training to gain unparalleled expertise to make a difference now and in the future.
The CDT is committed to providing an inclusive environment in which diverse students can thrive. The CDT particularly encourages applications from women, disabled and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidates, who are currently under-represented in the sector. We can also consider part time PhD students. We also encourage talented individuals from various backgrounds, with either an UG or MSc in a numerate subject and people with ambition and an interest in making a difference.
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